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Best Instructional Videos: World War II

The most widespread war in history, as well as the deadliest, World War II (1939-1945) forever changed America and its people. EducationWorld has scoured the Internet to bring you the most insightful and comprehensive educational videos about the conflict and its lasting impact. For each video, we include a description and grade level. We also note the video's capacity for engagement (“cool factor”).

crash course

Crash Course World History: World War II

Source:  Crash Course World History

The Crash Course World History YouTube channel features short, fast-paced video lessons about world history. Videos move quickly, making them more like entertaining overviews than serious lessons. The information is, however, sound, frequently contradicting “legends” accepted as fact.

Grade level:  Middle and high school

Run time:  13:13

Description:  This video goes beyond the parts of the war everyone remembers—such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor, D-Day and the Holocaust—to examine their causes and impact. Exactly why did Germany invade Poland in 1939, and why did the U.S. remain neutral for so long? The answers may surprise even the most ardent war buff.

Cool factor:  Extremely high. In addition to presenting historical information in a brilliantly entertaining fashion, the video is peppered with pop culture references in the form of quick visual gags and slight diversions from the primary topic.

World War II from Space

Source:  History

History is a basic cable channel that broadcasts documentary programs and historical fiction series. The network covers a wide range of historical periods and topics—everything from mythical creatures to disaster scenarios

Grade level:  Middle and high school

Run time:  1 hour, 28 minutes 6

Description:  This spectacular two-hour special delivers the tipping points of World War II as you’ve never seen them before. The program’s key feature is an all-seeing CGI eye—a satellite flying above earth that brings a new visual approach to one of the biggest conflicts in history. Flying through space and time from above, viewer see these monumental moments in their global context, bringing new information to the forefront.

Cool factor:  Extremely high. Here’s a standard recount of the events of WWII, delivered in spectacular fashion. Digital animation, 3D computer models of military equipment and dynamic strategy guides make the content almost seem like a video game. Even better, it is narrated by Alec Baldwin.


Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial

Source:  BBC

One of the most respected news agencies in the world, the BBC has won numerous awards for documentary and educational productions.

Grade level:  High school

Run time:  57:17

Description:  Unlike most WWII videos, this one examines one of the more prominent post-war events. The 1945 trial of several high-ranking Nazi officers captivated the world and featured none other than Hermann Goering, the man Adolf Hitler chose as his successor. Much of the video focuses on Goering, as he insists that the Nazis’ acts were the result of their German patriotism. The video contains historical footage as well as professional reenactments.

Note to teachers: While this video is appropriate for high schoolers, teachers should be aware of the sporadic use of some colorful phrases, including a time when Goering instructs the court to “Kiss my a$$.”

Cool factor:   High. The reenactments are done extremely well and strike a good balance between entreating the audience and informing it. The narration also provides sound historical information while adding perspective and a dramatic flair.

The Manhattan Project

Source:  Modern Marvels

This program focuses on how technologies affect and are used in today’s society. Among History’s longest-running programs, the video first aired on January 1, 1995, History’s first day of broadcasting.

Grade level:  Middle and high school

Run time:  43:59

Description:  The Manhattan Project, the top-secret undertaking to build the world’s first nuclear weapon, moved forward with unprecedented speed and expense—almost $30 billion in today’s dollars. In this video, Los Alamos scientists and engineers relate their trials, triumphs and dark doubts about building the ultimate weapon of war in the interest of peace.

Cool factor: High. Again, we have a great balance of entertainment and historical accuracy. This video not only looks into the weapon’s role in ending WWII, but also the science behind its unprecedented destructive power.


Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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